An Alabama woman said she was taken aback to make a grisly discovery inside a storage unit she got at an auction — a human fetus and cremated remains.
Rebekah McManus, 35, of Silverhill, was initially thrilled when she won a funeral home’s former storage unit for $30 at an auction in August.
“Ever since ‘Storage Wars’ became a thing, it’s always been on my bucket list [to buy a unit],” she told The Post Wednesday.
When McManus went to pick up her winnings, the U-haul manager told her the same owner had another unit that had not been retrieved, and offered to let her take that one for free.
McManus and her husband brought both units home a few days later. Their initial discoveries were innocuous– the first unit was stuffed with several decades of paperwork.
But McManus said when they opened the second unit they discovered a heavy grey tote. Inside, they found 13 cremated human remains.
“All the urn boxes were piled in there,” McManus said.
“My husband was like ‘What is that?’ and I said ‘That’s human remains.’”
McManus’s first thought was to return the remains to their loved ones. When she went to write down the names on the urns a few days later, however, she was interrupted by a second, grislier discovery.
“That’s when I found the fetus,” she said.
Unlike the cremains, the fetus was in a clear jar originally intended for autopsy sutures.
“I freaked out a little,” McManus admitted. “I wasn’t prepared for that.”
While disturbed by the find, McManus was initially hesitant to contact law enforcement.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get in trouble with the remains or not, for having them, so I wanted to make sure I reached out to those families first,” she explained.
It was a month before she called the police about the fetus, which was eventually collected by the Robertsdale Police Department. The department is now investigating the remains to rule out foul play.
“It was definitely not something we expected to deal with,” Lt. Paul Overstreet told WALA.
“It was hard to believe what we were being told and obviously later, what we saw.”
While the investigation is ongoing, McManus is staying busy by tracking down the families of the abandoned cremains. Of the 13 urns, she only has five families left to contact.
“The first two families, it was a missed communication. They thought someone else had picked [the ashes] up,” McManus said.
Cassandra Jones, on the other hand, thought her husband’s remains were buried shortly after he died in 2015.
“He should have been buried and was not. She was very emotional about it,” McManus said.
Jones said the realization was “devastating”
“It just seems like I’m reliving this all over again,” Jones told WKRG.
The family of the most recent decedent, who died in 2019, had been looking for their loved one’s ashes for two years and was “extremely upset,” McManus recalled.
Although McManus knows the identity of the units’ former owner, she did not identify them and has not contacted them.
“I don’t want any legal recourse coming back at me because of it,” she said.
“Technically, funeral directors can dispose of remains however they see fit, as long as it’s ‘humane’ and ‘dignified.’ So maybe, instead of throwing the remains away, they put them in a storage unit.”
Speaking to AL.com on Tuesday, Charles Perine, executive director of the Alabama Board of Funeral Service, said the agency would investigate the incident if families of the cremated individuals filed complaints.
“That business is no longer in business, and the individual at this time is no longer licensed by the state, so we are waiting to hear from the families,” he clarified.
For McManus, the past several weeks have been “a rollercoaster.” The only truly negative thing to come out of the situation, she said, is that her current storage facility is evicting her.
“They are kicking me out because of attention I am bringing them, even though I haven’t breached my contract,” she bemoaned.
When asked if she would consider buying a mystery unit again, McManus said she would, with one caveat.
“I would, but I’m totally prepared for it to be boring,” she said.
“There’s nothing that I wouldn’t expect to find in there now.”
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